TAMPA — Ryan Callahan has dealt with his fair share of obstacles throughout his career. But this season may be the veteran forward’s toughest test yet.
It’s one reason Callahan is the Lightning’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, given to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Callahan called the recognition from the Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, announced Friday, an honor, especially having come back from multiple injuries throughout his career.
He said he has had a tough time coming back from injuries, but he uses each opportunity with the Lightning to show his value to a team that is deep. His focus remains on doing whatever he can to help the Lightning.
Callahan, 34, has been shifted in and out of this year’s lineup more than he has in any other season in his career. Since the All-Star break, he has been the odd-man out in a deep forward group, usually a healthy scratch, getting playing time when someone is injured or when the Lightning has back-to-back games.
“There’s a lot that epitomizes the guy in terms of his character, his work ethic, what he brings, his leadership and his skill set, too,” captain Steven Stamkos said of his teammate.
Callahan’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates. Since the All-Star break, he has notched at least one point in four of the eight games he has played in, two goals and two assists.
“He’s just put the work in and continued to do whatever he can to help us win when called upon,” Stamkos said. “I think he’s playing some of his best hockey here when he’s gotten into the lineup down the stretch, just the energy that he brings, the competitiveness, that calming leadership qualities that he has.
“There’s nothing tougher than watching your teammates on the ice and not being out there. I know it has been tough on him, there’s no denying that. But he’s come to the rink, he’s been (angry) about it in a good way in terms of going out and playing and saying, ‘I’ll show you.’ And that’s the right attitude to have in that situation.”
Stamkos is right, Callahan said. He has been angry.
“I have to prove to them that I can still play every time I go on the ice,” he said. “I have a chip on my shoulder and (want to) prove to them I’m still an effective player in this league. But at the same time, it’s not distracting me from who I am in the room and trying to help the team, and I take that anger and use it on the ice and (to) motivate me off the ice too, working out and some of those extra skates making sure I’m ready for the opportunity.”
One thing is constant about Callahan’s role on the team: He’s respected by all his teammates.
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“He’s going to be a huge part of our team going into this playoff run,” Stamkos said. “He’s a huge part of this team whether he’s playing or not.”
Each team has a Masterton nominee. The winner is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and will be announced in June.
Contact Mari Faiello at email@example.com. Follow @faiello_mari.